Stories tagged Earth Buzz

If you have six minutes of your day to spare, watching this video clip is a great way to spend it:

Yup, it's Friday. Time for a new Science Friday video. Today: Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday
"The New York Department of Environmental Protection installed a prototype "algal turf scrubber" at once of its wastewater treatment plants in Queens. The scrubber--two 350-foot metal ramps coated with algae that grows naturally--is designed to use algae to remove nutrients and boost dissolved oxygen in the water that passes through it. John McLaughlin, Director of Ecological Services for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Peter May, restoration ecologist for Biohabitats, explain how the scrubber works, and where the harvested algae goes."

Due to weather conditions including strong winds, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area fire is now consuming 60,000 acres of land. That's about 94 square miles -- or more than one and a half times the area of Minneapolis!

The large smoke plume from the fire is visible from space as captured in these photos posted by the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS).

Mostly I think the photos are pretty, but if you like to geek-out about satellite imagery, you should note that these images use 250-meter resolution MODIS true color and false color imagery.

If you're interested in reading more about the BWCA fire, check out the Strib's latest.

I love movies, and since I don't have cable, I probably watch at least a movie a week. That's a lot of movies in a year, so occasionally I like to watch a special kind of movie that makes me feel less guilty -- and a little smarter.
Coming soon to a theater near you!: A Neighborhood for Raingardens
Coming soon to a theater near you!: A Neighborhood for RaingardensCourtesy Steve Rhodes

Enter the documentary.

Wait! Don't click away from the page yet.

This misunderstood film genre entertains as well as educates! Seriously, today's documentaries are not the lame-o film reels your parents watched in high school. Some documentaries are pretty fantastic (Planet Earth, anyone??).

You too can entertain and educate yourself (and treat a friend!) to the Minneapolis premiere of A Neighborhood for Raingardens this Friday, September 9th at 7pm at our very own St. Anthony Main Theater.

The 60-minute film, sponsored by the Institute on the Environment and and The Film Society of Minneapolis/Saint Paul, is about

"an inspirational initiative to clean up Powderhorn Lake one yard at a time. Guided and encouraged by Metro Blooms, hundreds of Powderhorn residents got together over the course of four months to install more than 100 raingardens."

Tickets are only $8.50 general, $6 students and seniors. If you'd like more information or to purchase advance tickets, check out this website.


Let's play "Alphabet Soup"! What do you think the acronym PGC stands for?

Plumber's Green Coat.
Public Greeting Ceremony?
Periwinkle Glam Cupcakes??
...Pennsylvania Game Commission?!

It could stand for all of those, I suppose, but today the correct answer is... Polar Geospatial Center.
Old-timey aerial photograph of Antarctica's snowy surface: Photographed in 1947 under Operation Windmill, a U.S. Navy expedition to test equipment, train personnel, and reaffirm American interests in Antarctica.
Old-timey aerial photograph of Antarctica's snowy surface: Photographed in 1947 under Operation Windmill, a U.S. Navy expedition to test equipment, train personnel, and reaffirm American interests in Antarctica.Courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the University of Minnesota's PGC has supplied maps, logistical support and training to US researchers in Antarctica for over five years. Recently, they’ve had the opportunity to expand their resources to cover the Arctic as well.

*** Beep! Beep! We've interrupted to bring you a not-so-important-at-all notice: ***

Maps are awesome! They're useful for getting from Point A to Point B and many are beautiful enough to frame and hang on your wall. Handy and pretty. What's more to love?? Maps are so great that the author of this post took an entire college course in maps (there was some aerial photography too, to be fair). It rocked her socks.

*** We will now return to your previously scheduled program.***
New-fangled satellite image of Antarctic Peninsula
New-fangled satellite image of Antarctic PeninsulaCourtesy Google and NASA

Some of the maps used by the PGC are originals: newly created for a specific team’s research goals. For example, they’ve used high-resolution satellite imagery to count emperor penguin and Weddell seal populations. By tracking the changes of animal populations, arctic landscapes, and seascapes, the PGC is building a record of the effects of climate change.

Bonus: You don’t have to be a researcher yourself to enjoy the PGC’s map work because they partner with Google to keep Google Maps and Google Earth up-to-date on the Arctic and Antarctic. (Note: You have to download a plugin for Google Earth.)

Happy mapping!

It's Friday, so let's get right to it. Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday

"A rooftop farm in Brooklyn grows vegetables and doubles as a green roof, insulating the warehouse below. Green roofs save money on cooling and heating costs and also retain water, reducing the load on sewer systems. Annie Novak, head farmer and co-founder of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm gives us a tour and Lisa Goode, whose company installed the roof, talks about the process.

On top of a warehouse in Brooklyn vegetables are sprouting. Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is a 6,000 square foot plot that sells produce to New Yorkers and local restaurants. The soil also helps regulate the temperature of the building below. Science Friday stopped by for a tour.

I'm not typically one for computer games, but with the tagline "Be a Sea Grant super sleuth," Nab the Aquatic Invaders! looked so neat I couldn't pass it up. (It brought back fond memories of my old Carmen San Diego computer game, circa 1995.)

Players can choose their skill level from "junior detective" to "super sleuth" as they meet the suspects, collect clues, and book the bad guys: invasive species. It's a great way to learn about

"the unusual species that create real problems in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, and Great Lakes regions."

Rules of play might be a little tricky for younger children, but the game comes with a guide for assisting teachers (or parents).


The entire nation now has a new ‘normal temperature.’ These climatological temperatures, and other weather parameters, are computed by averaging all temperatures over a 30-year period. These averages are called normal temperatures. These averages serve as a reference point and are used to help us interpret average climate conditions at a particular location. A comparison of today’s temperature with the normal temperature helps us determine if today is an atypical weather day. Private industry also uses these temperatures in the planning. For example, energy companies use the normal temperature for long term planning of energy usage. Agriculture uses this as they monitor a particular growing season.

The National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (or NCDC) calculates the normal weather conditions over a thirty year period for more than 7,500 locations in the United States.
Since this time period is a reference point, we have to define the 30-year period. As of July 1, this averaging period is 1981-2010. Prior to that date, the averaging period was 1971-2000. So, what does this new period tell us?

The normal temperature for the entire US is about 0.5 °F warmer now than it was during the 1971-2000 time period. The normal low temperature for WI is about 0.8 °F warmer now than it was in the 1971-2000 period; and WI normal high temperature is about 0.6 °F warmer. According to Assistant State Climatologist of WI, Dr. E. Hopkins, the new normal high and low temperatures for Madison (which is where I live) are 56.6 and 36.7, which are 0.2 and 1.2 degrees higher than the previous 30-year period.

You can find the new normals for where you live at this site:

Have I got a visual snack for you! But first, let's review:

Weather is not the same as climate. Weather is the actual day-to-day temperature, precipitation, wind, etc. Climate is the average long-term pattern of temperature, precipitation, wind, etc.

Got it? No? If you need more of an explanation (and who doesn't), check out this past Buzz post.

Great job! Now enjoy these amazing photos of extreme weather.

Did you check out the photos I shared with you above?

Get to it!

I'm waiting...

Alright. Moving on:

While Lane Turner's introduction to the photos makes it clear that a single extreme weather event is not evidence of climate change, she states (without citation) that

"a trend of weather intensity, and oddity, grows."

Beautiful Disaster: Cologne, Germany.  August 22, 2010
Beautiful Disaster: Cologne, Germany. August 22, 2010Courtesy meironke

Turner's continues by asking whether weather is becoming more extreme and, if it is, whether these increasing extreme weather events are evidence of climate change.

Say that 10 times fast... and then post your own answer to Turner's question below.

The Science Museum is a fantastic museum. I love museums -- and there are a lot in the Twin Cities! I haven't been to them all yet, but the Hennepin County Public Library system is going to help me out this summer.

How? They run the Museum Adventure Pass program that allows families up to two free admissions to more than a dozen area museums. Including the Bell Museum of Natural History.
Georgeous Alaska: Ok, so this was not taken by Jeff Jones, but Flickr user B Mully did a pretty great job of capturing Sheridan Glacier in Cordova, Alaska, right?  I love me some pretty photos.
Georgeous Alaska: Ok, so this was not taken by Jeff Jones, but Flickr user B Mully did a pretty great job of capturing Sheridan Glacier in Cordova, Alaska, right? I love me some pretty photos.Courtesy B Mully

Speaking of which, I just read here about a new exhibit I can hardly wait to check out:

"A new exhibit, [Arctic Sanctuary: Our Collective Refuge,] opening June 25 at the Bell Museum of Natural History, presents images and information of this wild region."

Interestingly, the exhibit is based on the photography of wilderness landscape photographer Jeff Jones -- yet another marriage of art and science.

So check out your local library, grab one of those museum passes, and come check out the Bell's new Alaska exhibit this summer!